By Susan D. Brandenburg
Michelangelo said, “My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through Earth’s loveliness.” Sculptor LaFond (Diane Insetta) has called each of her rich, earthy, and dramatic works “a prayer.”
An internationally recognized sculptor whose works are in private collections around the globe, LaFond earned her undergraduate BFA degree in studio arts, with double minors in theology and philosophy from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York (formerly Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart). She studied sculpture with Clara Fasano and Jean DeMarco and took postgraduate studies in painting and sculpture with Eric Isenberg and Adolph Block at the National Academy of Design School of Fine Arts, later studying marble carving in Pietrasanta, Italy, where Michelangelo saw “David” in the marble and carved until he “set him free.”
Jacksonville’s champion of civil rights, the late author and activist Stetson Kennedy, posed for LaFond in her studio over a decade ago and was completely entranced by her talent. “LaFond’s work is stunning,” Kennedy said, likening it to sculptures he’d seen in the Louvre. “It belongs to the world.”
Although LaFond, a resident of Lakewood for more than three decades, has maintained a low profile over the years, her works have gradually become an integral part of Jacksonville’s persona. When Congressman John Rutherford was Sheriff, LaFond’s sculpture “Heart of the Jaguar” stalked into his office and remains with him today. Giclées (prints) of her healing pen and ink rendition of the “Head of Christ” grace the walls of many Jacksonville residences, and her original sculptures of two bronze eagles stand guard at Memorial Park, protecting the park’s centerpiece statue “Life” that honors 1,200 Floridians who died in World War I.
On the day the bronze eagles were delivered and unveiled for a small gathering at the Insetta home on the St. Johns River, two eagles soared overhead for nearly an hour as if they were recognizing their own. “It was amazing,” declares friend and neighbor Beverly Colarusso. “We hadn’t seen eagles for a couple of years, and we’d never seen them hover as they did that day.”
LaFond’s sculptures pierce the heart. On October 7th, LaFond’s raw, painful sculpture, “Holocaust—The Dehumanization of Man,” will be exhibited at the University of North Florida’s art gallery. “I took one look at the statue and had to turn away for a moment,” says a visitor to LaFond’s studio. “I could hear them screaming.”